Regular readers may remember two posts I made here and here regarding a Supreme Court case that could have major implications for traditional church-based campus ministries.
Today, the verdict is in, and the ruling didn’t go in the favor of religious organizations.
From the story posted on InsideHigherEd.com:
Anti-Bias Rules Upheld
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled today, 5-to-4, that public colleges and universities may require religious organizations seeking recognition or funds as campus groups to comply with anti-bias rules.
The ruling came in a lawsuit by the Christian Legal Society, which challenged the anti-bias rules of the Hastings College of Law of the University of California. The Hastings policy bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and the Christian Legal Society bars gay people from becoming members. Hastings has argued – with backing from many in public higher education – that state universities have an obligation to adhere to strict anti-bias rules. But the Christian Legal Society – with backing from many religious groups – has argued that forcing it to comply with anti-bias rules amounts to infringing on its First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
The Supreme Court’s decision, by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, found that the law school’s policy was “a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral condition on access” that did not raise First Amendment issues in the way the Christian Legal Society argued.
The opinion explicitly rejects the argument of the Christian Legal Society that a public university has no business limiting its ability to be recognized and to apply its own rules to membership. “CLS’s analytical error lies in focusing on the benefits it must forgo while ignoring the interests of those it seeks to fence out: Exclusion, after all, has two sides,” the decision says. “Hastings, caught in the crossfire between a group’s desire to exclude and students’ demand for equal access, may reasonably draw a line in the sand permitting all organizations to express what they wish but no group to discriminate in membership.”
A dissent, by Justice Samuel Alito, blasted the decision, saying that it set a principle of “no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country’s institutions of higher learning.”
Many public colleges and universities have anti-bias policies similar to those of Hastings, so a ruling for the Christian Legal Society would have forced changes at many institutions. The issue has been particularly intense at public law schools (where the Christian Legal Society has sought recognition) and at undergraduate institutions with Greek systems (when Christian fraternities have sought recognition). Some public colleges and universities – faced with legal threats by supporters of the Christian Legal Society – have changed their policies to exempt religious groups, and those institutions could conceivably now reconsider.
Read the full story here.
We’re not exactly sure what this will mean at most universities yet, but if there are any implications for traditional campus ministry at all they will most likely be negative.